Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

In the same number Dr. H. L. Strack (Berlin) notices Dr. Driver's Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament. He commends the author's mastery of the material and the wise limitation of his work to a portion of the entire field of “ Introduction.” Besides giving some corrections of details, he praises especially the * careful" examples of the style of the different authors. “ As a rule the Christian of positive faith need not reject any and every result of critical inquiry; but the attitude to miracle and prophecy, especially to the miracle of all miracles, the person of Jesus Christ, forms the dividing-line between right and left, positive and negative. Driver belongs, like myself, to the positives ’; but Driver's book also shows strikingly that from this standpoint one may go very far in criticism. Kuenen and Wellhausen, so far as the books of the Old Testament may be the subject of literary and historical inquiry, have greatly influenced the author, so that in a new revision there is occasion for re-stating many positions in a way more nearly approaching the traditional con. ception ; but—and this is the significant difference - Kuenen was driven by his Darwinist standpoint to strongly negative results ; Driver, on the other hand, is influenced only by literary and historical reasons. Certainly, in the train of Kuenen and the great body of German inquirers and would-be inquirers, he assigns greater force to these reasons than I can do, at least at present; but the difference between us is not vital, and in very many passages the restraint with which the author judges or avoids judgment makes a favourable impression. I gladly acknowledge that I have received much stimulus from Driver's masterly work; that I have been led to modify many views hitherto cherished, and also that I have been gladdened by the agreement of the author's positions with my own University teaching."

CURRENT FRENCH THOUGHT.

THE PREACHING OF JESUS. A. BOUVIER (La l'ie Chrétienne).—“The words that I speak unto you," said Jesus, “they are spirit and they are life ” (John vi. 63); and the description is true of the manner as well as of the substance of His preaching.

" They are spirit.” By “spirit” He doubtless meant that which is opposed to mere form, to the letter, to the flesh, to all that is only in appearance, and to all that is rigid, barren, and dead. Spirit is almost synonymous with thought. His preaching is full of thought; you see in every line of it some idea lofty as a moun. tain-summit, or deep as a great abyss, or opening out before you as an endless perspective. It is preaching which is both abundant and self-restrained, in which there is no padding or amplification-nothing that is meant merely to soothe the mind, or charm the ear. Strange to say, though His words are full of thought we are not fatigued in listening to them; and the explanation is that here thought is presented in a direct, immediate, and transparent guise. There are no elaborate and confused courses of reasoning which we are called upon to follow. We may see the superiority of the Master in this respect over the teaching even of St. Paul. In the case of the Apostle we have fiery zeal, impetuous feeling, abrupt transitions, and arguments which remind us of the Rabbis, in whose school the writer grew up; while in the teaching of Jesus all is clear and luminous with a brightness which is inarvellously in proportion to the depth of His thought. The secret of this clearness is that Jesus does not argue, but reveals. He reveals the truth of the things of God, of man, of the future, and of the Divine life, as reflected in His own experience. He has that clearness which is only four d in lofty regions that are bathed in the light and air of heaven. Add to this that He gives perfect expression to the thought. Jesus expresses the truth with such brevity, firmness, exactness, and point, that His teaching has an inimitable character of its own. And at all times we notice that though His words are often subtle and keen, there is nothing far-fetched or pretentious about them; they do not aim at wit or effect, and thus lack in dignity or fall below the truth.

Sometimes happens that the expression of His thought takes a paradoxical form and comes into conflict with our prejudices and errors. Paradox is the ideal set in flagrant contrast with the actual; and Jesus is never afraid of presenting truth in all its harshness and of uttering the keenest reproofs.

We may enumerate some of His paradoxes. There are those which consist in exaggerated expression : plucking out an eye; cutting off a hand; hating one's own life in order to be His disciple; hating one's relatives ; turning the cheek to the smiter ; the left hand ignorant of what the right is doing; the camel passing through the needle's eye; the mountain cast into the sea; pardoning unto seventy times seven; when we give a feast, to summon those who cannot make any return; destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.

There are paradoxes which consist in apparent contradictions : those called happy whom the world is accustomed to call miserable; the poor in spirit ; the hungry and thirsty ; the meek who are habitually down-trodden, but whom He represents as inheriting the earth; the afflicted; those persecuted for righteousness' sake. And again, the kingdom of God as taken by the violent; whosoever would save his life shall lose it; I bring not peace but a sword; seven evils returning to the house that has been swept and garnished ; to him that hath shall be given, and he that hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he hath.

There are those which are distinguished by strangeness either in thought or expression : the beam and mote in the eye; My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed ; let the dead bury their dead; ye must be born again ; God compared to an unjust judge; praise given to the unfaithful steward ; if these should hold their peace the stones would immediately cry out.

Jesus does not limit Himself to thought, He desires to excite others to think, and to sift His hearers—to separate those that were attentive and worthy and spiritual, from the heedless, carnal multitude. This is evident from the explanation which He Himself gave of His use of parables. They were unintelligible to the indifferent, but they delighted and rewarded those who were eager to search out the truth.

Again, “His words are life." There was nothing abstract in them-no philosophical definitions. We are always in the realm of the living and the actual. Every time that Jesus spoke of spiritual and eternal realities, which the eye cannot see, and which escape the notice of the mass of men, He rendered these truths palpable and apparent by vivid figures and comparisons. It is thus, for example, that the various phases of an idea so vast and complex as that of the kingdom of God are made clear, and brought within the grasp of all.

Shall we quote some of His comparisons, sometimes merely simple touches ? There are those which are clear and spirited, and marked by a fine and penetrating analysis : such as the parable of the sower, the figures of the salt of the earth, the single eye, the wisdom of serpents, the harmlessness of doves, the leaven hidden in the meal. Others are radiant with poetic beauty: the house built on the rock, the lilies of the field and the glory of Solomon. When Jesus sets forth moral truths,

comparisons give place to narrative—to fiction. The most striking of His parables then present themselves. These are true dramas related in very few words. The figures are so distinctly drawn that they stand out from the background in full relief, and live for ever in the imagination of the world : as e.g., the Prodigal Son, the Good Samaritan, the Pharisee and the Publican, the Distribution of the Talents, the Ten Virgins.

Thus it is that the preaching of Jesus is full of life. And this is what it ought to be, since religious truth is not a theory, but something that occupies the whole being—that descends from the heart of God to enter the heart of man. Religious truth is by turns a virtue, an act, a state, a world restored, a strife, and a victory of good over evil. It should, then, be represented on the stage of the world as it actually appears to be. And the form Jesus chose is the true one. Owing to His teaching being devoid of the abstract, of that which is purely intellectual, it is not rigid and systematic in form. Jesus left those who wished a system to construct it for themselves.

If the distinctive characteristic of His teaching was in His own eyes that it was * spirit and life," the examination we have undertaken leads us to recognize in it two other characteristics which naturally belong to it: the union of the æsthetic and moral elements, and that of realisin and idealism.

The ästhetic element of religious teaching cannot be separated from the moral without danger of deterioration. This has taken place only too often in the history of the Christian pulpit, but only in times of declension and apostasy. For it is certain that appeals to conscience, condemnation of sin, and announcement of salvation cannot be cloaked under vague emotions and melting colours. On the other hand, those great truths which affect and move every faculty of the soul would be ill set forth if one could not draw upon all feelings and images—upon all the riches of the imagination and wealth of language.

This necessary combination of the æsthetic and moral shines forth in the teaching of Jesus. The parable, the figure, is a rich and flowing dress, but one always perceives or divines beneath it the body, that is to say, the moral truth. And often it is difficult to say which is the more striking—the beauty or the truth of His utterances.

I have said that the words of the Master present to us the union of realism and idealism. These are the two great tendencies of life, thought, and art-tendencies which are ordinarily so divergent that certain thinkers, artists, and orators can be classed as following either the one or the other. But those who limit themselves either to the one or to the other are to that extent inferior and incomplete. And to confine ourselves to the art of speech, we say that the realists grovel upon the earth, sink into stupidity and vulgarity, and weary or disgust cultivated minds and sensitive souls. On the other hand, idealists are carried away by speculations and vague mysticism, and lose their hold upon their hearers.

I do not think that any clear-sighted and impartial critic will contradict me when I say that Jesus is at once and in the highest degree a realist and an idealist. Realism is, one may say, everyday life; its manners, enjoyments, charms, miseries, needs, and weaknesses. Idealism is the life of lofty aspirations, disinterested thoughts, and of communion with things that are invisible and eternal. In the subject-matter of His teaching Jesus is an idealist, a realist in its form; or rather, He is at all times an idealist, for God is ever in His thoughts, and on His lips, and at all times a realist, for He never loses sight of the present, of the world, and of His hearers. And as He unites the Divine and the human in His person, so does He in His teaching. Thence results that marked characteristic of His teaching which we may sum up in the word spiritual (pneumatic), which includes the various elements we have noticed, and which recalls His own description of His words. It is a preaching which has truth, light, sympathy, warmth, and the power specially belonging to the Holy Spirit. It is the office of the Spirit to illumine, to give life, to sanctify, to strengthen, and to bless. These are the purposes to which the preaching Jesus is directed. Would that all who preach aspired to follow Him in this !

SUNDAY IN CHURCH.

THE MORNING LESSONS.

EIGHTH SUNDAY AFTER

TRINITY. NEWNESS OF SPIRIT. That we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.-ROM. vii. 6. "The Law," as a system of religion, is (lead; it has no more hold upon us; we are not bound by its requirements. This is not to be regretted ; on the contrary, it is an issue for which to give thanks. For it has given place to that which is higher and better than itself. For what is

I. THE LEADING CHARACTERISTIC OF THE LAW? It would be wrong to say that under the Law there was no spiritual freedom, no spontaneous service, no cheerful sacrifice, no glad fellowship with God. The Psalmist was not the only one who could say, “ I delight to do Thy will, O my God ; yea, Thy law is within my heart” (Ps. xl. 8). It was with willing hearts that the people offered of their substance both for the first and the second temple (1 Chron. xxix. 6, 14 ; Ezra i. 6). The king (Hezekiah) and all Judah exulted in the renewal of the Lord's passover, at the revival of pure religion in their day (2 Chron. xxix., xxx.). Nerertheless, the prevailing note of the Law was that of literal commandment. It was the dispensation of the letter, of positive, particular prescription. When the devout Hebrew wished to know how he should act in any matter of worship or obedience, he felt that he must very strictly conform to the letter of the Law. What was the "thon shalt," or what was the "thou shalt not," to be found in the sacred docuneut? All things were to be "after the pattern," according to the commandment." Not devout aspirations, not generous impulses, not individual conviction, but positive prescriptions were the rule of faith, the law of life, the characteristic of "the Law." But what is-

II. THE BETTER AND HIGHER CHARACTERISTIC OF THE GOSPEL? 1. It would be wrong to say that there is absolutely nothing of the literal, of the prescriptive, in the Gospel. Falsehood, dishonesty, profanity, and impurity, in their various forms, are clearly and emphatically disallowed, while their opposites are as clearly and distinctly enjoined. 2. It would be a mistake to say that wise habits of life are discouraged in the Gospel. He would be a very venturesome disciple, and would be running serious risks, who did not regulate his spiritual life by some settled habits, de. liberately formed, and religiously maintained. But these are the outside, rather than the in. side, of Christian piety. Its prevailing note is spirituality. We find this everywhere. (1) In Christian worship. Our Lord's great word on this subject is confirmed by tliat of His Apostle (John iv. 23, 24; 1 Cor. xiv. 15; Phil. iii. 3 ; Ephes. v. 19). (2) In our entrance into His kingdom. We are not required to subscribe to any particular creel ; but it is of vital consequence that we seek for truth in the spirit of filial trustfulness and reverent inquiry (Matt. xviii. 3). We are not commanded to pass through any prescribedi rites that we may enter into life; but we are required to cherish a lowly and a humble spirit, for “theirs is the kingilom of heaven” (Matt. v. 3, xviii. 4). Not attention to any ordinances, but a living faith in a Divino Saviour, leads the human spirit into life eternal (John v. 24). (3) In acceptable service. (i.) We are constantly to renew our vow of consecration to our Lord, and this is to be our "spiritual service” (Rom. xii. 1, R. V., margin). (ii.) Our daily and hourly obedience is not to be a dry and barren conformity of speech and behaviour to Scriptural precept; it is to be rendered in the spirit of reverence and devotion, as unto Christ our Lord (Col. iii. 23). The worth of our obedience depends not upon its strict

TO l'S ALL.

propriety, but upon its motive and inspiration. mentally, and perhaps spiritually, enriched We are not to be compelled by the thought beyond her highest expectation. As she that we must do or abstain ; we are to be crossed the desert a second time, she felt that moved to action because we rejoice to know she had been abundantly repaid for her toil that we may and can please Christ and and her sacrifice. Wisdom is always worth honour Him in everything we do and say. It the price we pay for it. “Buy the truth,” is not the knowledge of the Law that compels says the wise man; and we do well to purchase us; it is "the love of Christ that constrains it, cost what it may. There is us" to walk, to run in the way of God's com- I. THE SENSE IN WHICH WISDOM IS OPEN mandments. It is because we love that we

1. The objects of nature are fulfil. It is the newness of a willing spirit about us; the life of bird and beast, as well that takes us with elastic step along the path as of flower and trec, is lived before our eyes ; of life. (4) In Christian work. We recognize human life is spent in our presence ; we need the truth that our fidelity to our Lord is not

but the open eye, the hearing ear, the undercomplete without rendering service to our standing mind, and wo shall be wise in that neighbour. But the worth of such service is direction. 2. The record of revealed religion, not measurable by the number of hours we of Divine truth, is to be had for a few pencespend upon it, or by the variety of engage- it may practically be had for the asking; and ments we make in conducting it. Everything what God has said to us through Jesus Christ depends on the spirit in which we enter upon may be known by all who will read and think. it and carry it out. It is a living spirit that 3. Jesus Christ, who Himself is the Wisdom constitutes its excellency (1 Cor. xiii.). Grief of God, is offering Himself to us as our Saviour, for the sins and sorrows of men ; pure pity our Friend, our Guide, if we will give Him our for them in their error and in their evil ; a heart, if we will take His hand. 4. Eternal holy yearning to comfort, to heal, to restore life, with all that it includes, both here and them ;-the spirit of our Lord (2 Cor. viii. 9) hereaster, is “the gift of God” (Rom. vi. 23). is that which gives us high rank in the Gospel The waters which our thirsting spirit craves, of Christ.

the bread which satisfies our hungering heart NINTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY. —the nourishing, life-giving truth of GodTHE WORTH OF WISDOM.

is to be had “without money and without

price." And when the Queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the

II. THE SENSE IN WHICH IT IS COSTLY. Lord, she came to prove him with harid ques- 1. Much of the practical wisdom of life is tions. And she came to Jerusalem with a only to be gained from a suffering experience. very great train, &c.—1 Kings X. 1-10.

The insecurity of earthly good ; the variable. We may regard the Queen of Sheba as a ness and incompleteness of human goodness ; woman who paid a great price for wisdom. the weakness of our own right-minded spirit ; No doubt she was prompted by curiosity to the vanity of physical gratification and temsee the magnificence of Solomon ; she may poral prosperity ; the immeasurable superiority have hoped to puzzle the potentate of whose of all pure joys and spiritual possessions-shrewdness and learning she had heard so these and similar truths are only secured at much ; but what largely, if not principally, the price of much disillusion and disappoint. induced her to take that long and tedious inent. We buy them at the counter of exjourney was her desire to learn what the wise perience. 2. The fixed persuasion of the man could teach her. She came to “com- Divine origin of the Christian faith is often mune with him of all that was in her heart." only to be reached after the upbreaking of She ** came from the ends of the earth to hear early confidence; after painful and perplexing the wisdom of Solomon " (Matt. xii. 42). And doubt ; after earnest and prolonged inquiry ; though she travelled far, and must have gone after prayerful waiting. With much tribula. to great expense with her " very great train," tion many spirits enter the kingdom of truth. and must have been subject to great trouble 3. Entrance on our Christian course is often and fatigue, yet was she well rewarded. She attended withi inward strife or outward loss. gathered a great store of knowledge and of We have to strive sometimes to enter into the truth. She learned, probably for the first strait gate (Luke xiii. 24), and the strife time, the fundamental truths of religion and may be intense and long. And sometimes morality. She went back to her own country this entrance on the course of heavenly

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »